BLACK RIVER FALLS — Twenty-two years after she began offering workshops, Deb Jones continues to teach students from throughout the Upper Midwest at her Fiber Garden studio and mercantile two miles south of Black River Falls.
And she has started offering travel tours for fiber arts enthusiasts, including two in 2017 – a Great Britain Sheep-to-Shawl Tour next June 16-27 and a Hand Spinners Alaska Cruise next Aug. 6-13.
The first travel tour was a cruise ship trip last October that included spinning classes taught by Jones and stops at fiber arts businesses in New England and Canada.
“I’ve been thinking about it for years,” Jones said of offering travel tours. “There weren’t a lot of travel opportunities for spinners or weavers. This is a niche I was looking to focus on.”
Jones also has been a travel consultant for the past couple years, planning and booking travel for others.
Jones, who is 60, has had time to expand into travel tours since retiring in 2013 from University of Wisconsin-Extension after more than 25 years with the agency.
“I loved my whole career with extension,” Jones said. “One of my goals when I retired (from UW-Extension) was to teach more off site,” Jones said. “I’ve done that.”
Besides the workshops she offers at her studio, Jones each year teaches at workshops at about five other Wisconsin locations, such as at the Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Door County and the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson.
At her studio near Black River Falls, Jones teaches workshops on spinning, dyeing and rigid heddle weaving. Spinning involves creating yarn, which later is made into finished products through knitting or weaving.
Another instructor, Susan Frame, teaches weaving workshops.
People can visit the Fiber Garden website to see a list of upcoming workshops and special events, or to schedule a private class for their group of three or more.
The Fiber Garden studio also doubles as a mercantile that sells such things as knitting and weaving yarns, spinning fibers, dyes, spinning and weaving equipment, fiber arts books, teas, candles and some finished fiber products made by Jones and some of her students.
“People know me for my large inventory of spinning fibers,” Jones said of the mercantile, which is open by appointment.
Jones started her business in 1994 at another rural Black River Falls location, and she has moved it twice since then. It’s been at the current site – a log home that Jones built – since 2005.
Jones said most workshops at her studio are on weekends, and they frequently draw fiber arts enthusiasts from out of town who stay at local hotels. The workshops last one to four days.
Jones also offers a Hand Spinners Retreat each fall and spring in Baraboo, Wis. “A wonderful spinning community has developed from those retreats,” she said. “They sit and enjoy a weekend of spinning with other people who love to spin.” The retreats have drawn people from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
Jones also holds an annual Holiday Country Retreat at her studio; this year’s will be Nov. 25-27 and will feature live music, complimentary food and beverages and shopping at the mercantile.